Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’17 — #8 Ryan Braun

#RyanBraunForever

This can be a very short article, but let’s see what happens. Today is March 26 which is always 8 days away from April 3 and this year just so happens to be 8 days away from Opening Day.

Assuming you’re a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers and/or have watched MLB over the past decade, you’re aware of who Ryan Braun is, what he means to the franchise, and why he’s polarizing among baseball fans. There’s no real reason to get into those things in this space so instead how about a focus on a review of 2016 and a 2017 outlook, you know…a traditional “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” column.

The 2016 season begins with the end of the 2015 season and the revelation that Braun needed back surgery. The operation to repair a bulging disc in his lower back was completed shortly after the conclusion of the regular season. A plan was then developed in conjunction with the athletic training staff and manager Craig Counsell to give Braun more days off, often piggybacking with a scheduled team off-day, in an attempt to make sure the physical ailments did not crop back up again in 2016.

That was a rousing success by any measure. Braun played in 135 games in 2016 and had his best season at the plate since he first began suffering from the well-documented nerve issue in his thumb. A .305/.365/.538 line resulted in his fifth season with an OPS north of .900. Braun hit 30 home runs and even stole 16 bases in 21 official attempts. All told his season was good for a 136 OPS+.

As Braun himself has said throughout his career, when healthy he is one of the game’s best hitters. He proved that in 2016 once again, his first healthy season since 2012. What’s more, Braun said in camp last month that he feels as good as he has in years. He was able to complete what he considers a full off-season program for the first time in years as well.

If you find baseball as romantic as I do, then that news will be the ultimate music to your ears. And if Ryan Braun is as in the best shape he’s been since what were his two best offensive seasons…

Well, look out pitchers.

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the August 31st trade that almost went down. Braun was this close to dressing in Dodger blue on September 1st of last year. It didn’t happen, and I don’t think it will anymore, but that it came as close as it did should indicate to Brewers fans that Braun was playing well enough for a playoff contending team to want to bring him in. That’s encouraging.

It’s not something to worry about moving forward though, if you’re pro-Braun. He gains 10/5 rights in May so any trade after that would require his approval. Braun and his wife love playing in Milwaukee and for Brewers fans. And while Braun has said that a full no-trade wouldn’t automatically stand in the way of a deal if the Brewers truly felt like they wanted to move on, the owner, front office, and coaching staff are all on record as liking the fact that Braun is a Brewer. That’s comforting from the standpoint of a fan.

As an analytical mind though, Braun still plays baseball at a high level and can help both this and future Brewers teams win.

Regardless of the bumper crop of outfield prospects seemingly on the verge of harvest, Ryan Joseph Braun is valuable, effective, undervalued contractually based on the open market, and still the Brewers best player.

That’s something to be appreciated and therefore not something to be given up lightly.

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#53 Jhan Mariñez
#52 Jimmy Nelson
#51 Damien Magnifico
#50 Jacob Barnes
#47 Jett Bandy
#46 Corey Knebel
#45 Tyler Cravy
#41 Junior Guerra
#38 Wily Peralta
#37 Neftalí Feliz
#35 Brent Suter
#33 Tommy Milone
#29 Yadiel Rivera
#28 Jorge Lopez
#27 Zach Davies
#26 Taylor Jungmann
#25 Michael Reed
#24 Jesús Aguilar
#23 Keon Broxton
#22 Matt Garza
#21 Travis Shaw
#18 Eric Sogard
#16 Domingo Santana
#14 Hernan Pérez
#13 Andrew Susac
#10 Kirk Nieuwenhuis
#9 Manny Piña